Looking for a place to live is a lot of work. Over the past few weeks, my wife and I have visited 20+ different suites, apartments, and hovels across our city as we try to find the best rental apartment. Some are good, some are bad, and some are just plain strange. As a prospective tenant, I make sure to present myself in such a way that I would seem like a good tenant. I dress well, I drive and park carefully, I smile and shake hands, and I make sure to quickly answer any questions that are asked of me. However, I am startled and amazed at how few landlords care to present themselves. While I do have to compete against other prospective tenants for quality suites, landlords also have to compete against other landlords for my monthly money. Even if you don't dress yourself up, if the suite isn't presented positively as well, then you might miss out on getting good tenants.
Here's 13 reasons your rental suite is still empty.
1. You didn't post pictures
While some of the best places that we've found so far were listed on craigslist without pictures, not including photos is an immediate turn off. If you are going to post your rental suite on craigslist, include photos. If you don't, I am going to wonder what you are trying to hide. It is not like you are going to trick someone into living in your place, so not including photos just seems lazy.
2. You didn't show up
When you agree with someone to view your suite, do everything in your power to be there. While I have yet to be stood up, I have had to wait 15+ minutes for a landlord to arrive. When you are trying to view 5 or 6 places in a row, being put 15 minutes behind schedule meant that I was now late for the rest of my appointments.
3. You were unable to make time for an appointment
If you advertise your suite is for rent, expect people are going to want to come by and take a look at it. Don't, for example, put up a posting on craigslist and then immediately leave town for 3 days. You will receive phone calls about your suite, and saying, “well, maybe next week” is not an acceptable response.
4. The rental suite is dirty
Granted, as a landlord you don't always have control over how the suite will look like if you still have your current tenants living in the rental area. However, you can most definitely make the request that they keep it as clean as possible. I know of a couple of landlords who have “sweetened the deal” by offering a month's free rent for keeping it neat and tidy, or in our case, a bottle of wine per showing.
5. You were dirty
Even if you can't fully control how the suite looks, you can definitely control how you look. I'm not asking for a suit and tie, but I do expect that you are wearing appropriate attire. I was greeted by a landlord that seemed to have just woken up, as they were still in their pyjamas. I was also shown a suite by someone who was wearing clothes that were absolutely filthy. If you look filthy, I expect the area you occupy to also be dirty. That does not make me want to live in your space.
6. The pictures you posted are misleading
This one was really frustrating. I totally understand that you want people to look at the pictures and think “I want to live there”. However, when you start taking pictures from angles to mislead people into thinking that they are getting space that they actually aren't, then all you are going to get is a disappointed potential tenant. The suite we saw looked big – because the photos were taken from the hallway outside the rental space, giving the illusion of larger rooms and a hallway. Even worse is photos of how the suite looked before it was lived in by six teenage boys, or photos that are so dark it is hard to tell what exactly is in the picture.
7. Your suite is illegal
I don't exactly know building code off the back of my hand, but I do know an illegal suite when I see one. If, and when, I do walk into an illegal suite, I look around, and then I walk out.
8. You are asking too much
I totally understand that you are willing to wait for the right buyer. I also totally understand that you just put a lot of money into the house or renovations for the suite. However, if you are asking for a $300 premium for the privilege of living in your home just because you lack a grasp on the housing market, don't expect people to be banging down your door. You will lose even more money not renting out the suite rather than renting it out at a fair price.
9. You're a nudist
10. You don't speak English
I live in a very multicultural area. However, if you post an ad in English, and have an English sounding name, then I feel like it is your responsibility to ensure that the person who answers the phone number you listed actually speaks English.
11. You don't leave a contact phone number
I totally understand that you are afraid of receiving spam telephone calls from telemarketers if you post your phone number willy nilly all over the internet. However, if I email you and ask you to phone me and I leave my phone number, then I expect you to call me. Or, if you do choose to email back, because I left my phone number, I expect you to leave yours. It is hard to sit outside someone's house, hoping it's the right one, sending an email to confirm just because you don't want to give anyone your phone number.
12. You list inaccurate measurements
I'm not in the construction trade, and to be honest, I very rarely calculate square footage just for the heck of it. However, do not just estimate that your place is 1000+ square feet. If your ad lists 1000+ sq ft, then I expect 1000+ sq ft. Not two 6×10 bedrooms, a bathroom where you can't close the door if you are sitting on the toilet, and a kitchen that has four cupboards. If you list the square footage (and you should), you should measure it first. Even better, list the dimensions of each of the rooms!
13. You list an inaccurate price
Only $950 a month! your ad screams. However, that doesn't include you having to pay for utilities, which is another $150. So really, rent is $1100, you just didn't want to list it. If you are expecting your tenants to pay for utilities, just list it in the price. Or, if you are doing a percentage of the utilities, make that clear up front as well.
In the end, all tenants are really looking for is a good, honest deal, with a good, honest landlord. Anything to make your place seem better than it actually is will simply put off most potential tenants – or at the good ones. Do everything you can to be as upfront and clear in the beginning, and you will ensure that you get yourself a good tenant.